1. LONGER STAYS
There are only 2 places in Guatemala where I would spend several weeks. Those 2 places are Lake Atitlán and Antigua Guatemala.
I lived 6 years in Atitlán and 3 years in Antigua. They are completely different from each other and full of places to visit and things to do. And even when you don’t want to do anything at all, you still want to be surrounded by such beauty and awe.
Lake Atitlán is all about nature and indigenous culture. The most beautiful lake in the world.
On the other hand, Antigua Guatemala is the most beautiful colonial city of the world and Unesco World Heritage Centre.
Lake Atitlán is paradise. It’s surrounded by 3 huge volcanos and has a semi-tropical weather. It’s always spring up there. Even in rainy season, the temperature is warm.
Around the lake are several indigenous towns with different vibes. San Marcos La Laguna is the favorite location of hippies looking for «spiritual» activities. San Pedro La Laguna is hardcore party. San Juan La Laguna is all about traditional arts and crafts. Santiago Atitlán is an epicenter of mayan culture.
The nicest hotels and AirBnB range $150-$300 per night.
Renting a house for a whole month is a much better option. For $1,000-$1,500 you can get a super nice lake fronthouse with a tropical garden.
Founded in the early 16th century, this place is one of a kind. You never get bored of just walking the streets and seeing the beauty all around you.
It’s also surrounded by 2 giant volcanoes, one of those is always active. You can actually hike the volcano and get close to the action.
There are also lots of restaurants and pubs with amazing food at a very affordable price. For less than $20 per person you can have a legendary feast.
Like Atitlán, the nicest hotels and AirBnB range $150-$300 per night.
Renting a house for a whole month is a much better option. For $1,000-$1,500 you can get a big beautiful colonial house with a nice garden.
2. SHORT TRIPS
Here you will find a selection of places where I wouldn’t spend more than 3-5 days each.
That’s more than enough to enjoy everything the place has to offer.
Petén is the northernmost department of Guatemala. The jungle.
There you can enjoy Lake Petén Itzá, the Flores Island and the jewel of the crown: the archeological site of Tikal, the ancient city of the Maya. Just breathtaking. The place is HUGE, full of pyramids and temples. You need a whole day to take the basic tour.
To get there you need to catch a plane in Guatemala City. One hour flight.
Mi favorite hotel in the world, Las Lagunas, is right there. Expensive but worth it ($400-500 per night).
There are cheaper hotels tho.
Semuc Champey (Where the river hides under the stones) is a natural monument that consists of a series of stepped, turquoise pools in a rainforest.
It’s in the middle of nowhere, so there is not much to do: enjoy the natural pools, eat and rest. 2-3 nights are nice.
The caribbean. Another huge lake, nature, white sand beaches and Livingston, noted for its unusual mix of Garífuna, Afro-Caribbean, Maya and Ladino people and culture.
The nicest hotel is Hacienda Tijax (first picture).
If you want 2-3 nights of peace and rest, without anything else to do, then the Pacific is a great option. Here in Guatemala every beach hotel is right on the shore, but on the negative side there is nothing. No seafront with restaurants. Just the black sand beach and mangroves.
3. ONE-DAY TRIPS
There are also some 1-day trips you can do. Right off the bat I can think of two: the giant arts&crafts market of Chichicastenango and the thermal waters of Fuentes Georginas.